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Photograph by Pete Shea
odd man out: When the summer doldrums hit, there may not be waves--but there will always be standup paddle surfing.

Row Your Board

Our surfer-scribe explores the mysterious cult of standup paddle surfing

By Garrett Wheeler

You've probably noticed them cruising the waters around Pleasure Point and Cowell's on days when the waves are small, the wind is naught and the sun is warm. In the summer months they wear no wetsuit, mostly because they rarely touch the water. Oh sure, they're surfing, but they're doing it with an oar, standing up. Stand up paddle (SUP) surfing, the latest craze in water sports, came from Hawaii (a shocker, I know) and is now attracting an increasing number of stoked enthusiasts here in Santa Cruz. So, in order to investigate this pressing matter of athletic evolution, I decided to try it for myself--after all, how hard could it be?

I'll let you in on a little secret: it isn't as easy as it looks, and the troubles begin long before you get to the beach. Struggling to wrest the board from its rack at Freeline Surf Shop, I quickly realized an SUP surfboard is no ordinary craft; in fact, it resembles an airplane wing more than a surfboard. The thing is freaking huge. I eventually managed to get the board to my truck (thanks to Freeline staff), where I tied it down and headed to the southern end of Pleasure Point, to a stretch of reef known as Privates. There, I met with SUP surfer Gary Niblock, who would do double duty as my interviewee and SUP instructor. Niblock's introduction to SUP surfing came in 2003, when his surfing was halted by an ongoing back injury. "People would tell me all this stuff about how SUP surfing was a great workout for your core muscles, and how it might help my back," Niblock says. "But I actually didn't try it until I went on vacation to Hawaii in 2007. I thought, 'Well, the water's warm, so I'll just give it a try,' and I loved it. I was supposed to return my rental board after an hour, but I kept it for two because I was having so much fun."

Upon returning to Santa Cruz, Niblock shopped around for a board, eventually settling on a 10-foot-4-inch shaped by Ed Angulo of Hawaii.

"The first day I went out on the Angulo, I paddled all the way to the Capitola pier and back, then I surfed two waves. I was hooked. Since then, I've surfed my shortboard maybe two or three times, and I don't think I've taken my longboard out once."

Why the conversion to SUP?

"You never get skunked," Niblock chuckles, "even if there's no waves, it's fun to just go paddle around."

Would I share Niblock's immediate success? After slipping into my wetsuit and carting the massive board to the beach, it was time to find out. On Niblock's advice, I ventured into the water paddling from my knees to get a feel for the balance. It felt strange maneuvering a surfboard with an oar, but after a few minutes, I felt ready to give my feet a try. I stood up, a little wobbly at first, and took a few strokes. I began moving slowly out to sea, alternating between paddling on my left and right, following Niblock as he glided across the ocean like he was on a Sunday stroll. I, on the other hand, promptly lost balance and flopped into the water. After an hour or so, I was pretty comfortable on my feet (though my thighs were starting to burn), and I paused to take in the scene. It was a beautiful afternoon, warm and cloudless, with a light offshore breeze. I watched as a surfer sped across a wave at the Hook. Niblock must have seen me gazing up the coast, and he began to tell me about SUP surfing's potential hazard.

"It's really important for SUP surfers to be generous out here, especially if we're sharing the lineup with other surfers. Since it's easier to catch waves on an SUP board than a regular surfboard, we have to be considerate, and share the waves," he said. "If we want to be accepted and respected, we need to pass that knowledge on."

It's true that with the rising popularity of the sport comes the rising number of beginners who will inevitably disregard the basic rules of surf etiquette.

"People are always going to be resistant to change," says Niblock. "That's why SUP surfers need to be responsible."

After Niblock said his goodbyes and headed home for dinner, I was left alone with a couple longboarders to enjoy the few waist-high waves that made their way down the point. After unsuccessfully attempting to ride a wave standing up, I settled back to my knees and caught a dribbler to the inside. Then, I was rewarded with a little in-between wave that rose up near where I sat. I struggled to my feet, paddled with all the strength I had left, and then, whoosh--the sensation of surf: sliding across the ocean, walking on water, feeling the glide. And the stoke.

Thanks to Freeline Surf Shop for all the help, and to Gary Niblock's wife, who had to eat a late dinner because Gary was out surfin'.

All Fun and Games

Get your DIY kicks with human-shaped piñatas and rotten fruit rockets

By Will Mosher

Do you distrust the engines of industry to create products that fit your needs as snugly you'd like? Would you like to turn the production clock back to the days when industry was still in cottages and everything was painstakingly built by tradesmen? You can. You don't need a company to decide that a product is safe before you can buy it, or to tell you what you can and cannot have. I'm telling you that you don't have to buy it. You can build it.

I hereby present to you two semidangerous, purely recreational, Do It Yourself (DIY) projects that you can do over summer in order to stick it to people who say that you can't build a human-shaped piñata or a peach gun from scratch. You can. It's easy. I'm going to tell you how.It would be nice if we lived in a perfect world where we could all buy and use powerful fireworks and drink out of glass bottles at baseball games, but we don't because a few buffoons have ruined it for everyone, so please activate your common sense mechanism and proceed with due caution.

The Piñata Body Clone
I humbly bring our readers our first project: the piñata clone. It's a piñata that's shaped just like you because it's made from a cast of your body. It not only makes a nifty representation of your enemies if you ever feel the need to get out some aggression on a festively colored, candy-filled, life-size effigy, but it also makes a great decoy if you ever need to distract sniper fire. You're going to need a couple of things for this project:

Duct tape
Plastic wrap
Scissors (those cast cutting scissors from first aid kits are best)
Brightly colored wrapping paper (to taste)
A helper
Breathing tubes that can't get kinked

1. Cover an arm or leg with the plastic wrap and then put duct tape over it.

2. Get your helper to use your scissors to cut off the wrap. The duct tape should hold the shape by catching the wrinkles in the plastic wrap.

3. Stuff the shape with newspaper.

4. Tape up the wrap so it looks like your limb again.

5. You should be able to repeat this for your entire body, covering a limb, cutting off the wrap, stuffing it, taping it up.

6. The tricky thing about this project is wrapping your head without suffocating. That's why it's really important to make sure that you can breath at all times while wrapping your head with plastic. Use a breathing tube that can't get plugged, kinked or soggy. If you're claustrophobic then you can use something else for a head but it probably won't look right.

7. Put it all together.

8. Decorate!

9. If you want to fill the clone with candy, you'll need to find a way to reinforce the body. You can use chicken wire if you want to make it really tough, or you can use cardboard.

The Polyvinyl Chloride Bike-Pump-Powered Fruit-Slinging Horseshoe-Shaped Gun of Death
This second project is a little bit more hazardous, but if you take the proper steps to protect yourself then you'll live; and even better, people in the hospital or netherworld won't laugh at you for being stupid. We're going to build a gun out of PVC tubing that uses compressed air to fire rotten fruit. The design is simple. At its most basic level it has only three parts: a chamber, a valve and a barrel. We fill the chamber with pressurized air that is kept back by the valve. We stuff something into the barrel. Once it's there, the valve is released and the pressurized air blows the ammunition out of the barrel. It's like a spring, but instead of pressing down a metal coil we're pressing on air, and that air pushes old raspberries, plums and whatnot out the chamber with a respectable amount of force.

This project is cheap (under $20 if you already have a bike pump), powerful, and takes an afternoon to make. You can make larger ones, but the one that we're building today is going to be nice and small which means that you can load and fire it really quickly. It can be dangerous if you aim it at someone, so don't.

For this project you will need:
One brass ball valve a half-inch in diameter. You can use a PVC ball valve as well. It's a little cheaper, but the brass ball valve opens faster and thus makes your rotten fruit shoot faster.Two four-foot-long sections of half-inch diameter PVC pipe

One foot of half-inch diameter PVC pipe
A half-inch diameter PVC street joint.
A half-inch diameter PVC joint.
A bike tire valve stem. You can get these at bike stores or automotive stores.
Make sure you can screw it onto something.
A can of PVC primer
A can of PVC glue
A female PVC half-inch diameter end cap
An electric drill
A drill bit which is approximately the size of the bike tire valve stem
A knife
A wooden dowel that can fit inside the pipes
Rotten fruit for ammunition

1. Drill a hole in the female end cap that's large enough to screw in the valve stem. This is the trickiest part of the project. If you screw it up then you have to try it over because air will leak

2. Screw in the valve stem.

3. Clean the ends of all PVC pieces that you're going to connect together.

4. Put a coat of PVC primer on all the pieces that you're connecting and give it a few hours to dry.

5. Glue it together in a large horseshoe shape: long tube, joint, short tube, joint, long tube.

6. Sharpen the edge of the barrel so that you can stuff fruit down the front. It should cut out bullets from rotten fruit by acting as sort of a cookie cutter.

7. Wait for everything to dry.

The compression chamber should be attached to the joints so that it loops underneath the barrel. This is really to make the gun less bulky and easier to use. You could omit the joints and make the gun into a straight tube, but if you did then gun would be about 9 feet long. Don't do this. Refer to the photographs. See how it's shaped like a horseshoe? That's the joints at work.

Attaching the ball valve to the gun can be tricky. If you've decided to use a brass valve then you'll need to find PVC adapters with threads that will screw into it. If you aren't mechanically inclined then you can use one of the PVC ball valves. They're a little weaker, but you don't need to screw them into the tubes that will make your barrel. You have the ability to choose between using a brass valve, which is slightly more difficult to attach to a PVC gun, but it opens faster, or a PVC valve which might be harder to open, but is really easy to attach. You can choose which one you'd like to use according to your own tastes. After everything is assembled and the glue has dried, you can fire it. Slightly rotten fruit is ideal for ammunition, but you can use anything that's solid enough to fit into the barrel properly. I like to use the nasty pseudo-cherries that drop off the trees outside my apartment, but you can use whatever you'd like. Hunt around. The beauty of this contraption is it can fire almost anything you want. I've even loaded the gun with mud before and it worked fine.

Jam whatever you find into the barrel with your wooden dowel. The "bullet," if pushed deep into the gun, will travel farther and faster than one that isn't. Then attach your bike pump to the valve stem while the ball valve is closed, pump it up, point the gun at something that isn't alive and quickly release the ball valve to fire.

Extra Safety
There's a risk that the compression chamber will blow up if you pump it too hard and it can be particularly nasty if you aren't prepared, so here are two extra things that you can do to make it safer.

Covering the compression chamber with duct tape is a good way to make it safer if the chamber decides to explode on you. If there's tape covering the chamber while it explodes then the shards that would have shot into your eyes and face will just clump together. Remember in 2003 when everyone was freaked out about terrorism and the Department of Homeland Security suggested that we put two pieces of tape in an X shape over our windows? It's the same concept.

Also, don't get creative and decide to use anything other than a bike pump to pressurize the chamber. If you use bottled air or a gasoline powered air compressor, then you're asking for an explosion. Don't get fancy unless you really know what you're doing. Be safe and don't shoot your friends or their cat. Most of all, have fun.

The Best of The Fests

The little tastes of wine, the stained glass for sale, the meat on a stick--it's summer festival season in Santa Cruz. Please remain calm.

By Steve Hahn

Come summertime, you can't swing a dead cat in Santa Cruz without hitting a face-painting booth or a Kettle Corn stand. Say your thanks and pick your poison--there's plenty to choose from all summer long.

Capitola Twilight Concerts
Slip on the flip-flops and shorts and head down to Capitola's Esplanade Park for some free music by the Bay. Every Wednesday, June 18-Aug. 27, 6-8pm. Lineup at

Art at the Beach
Paintings, sculptures and other handiwork by local artists will be on display along the picturesque Capitola beachfront on select Sundays. July 6 and 20, Aug. 3 and 17, 11am-6pm, Capitola Village Esplanade Park.

Japanese Cultural Fair
The rich cultural history of Japan will be on display for one day only in Santa Cruz's Mission Plaza Park. Saturday, June 21, 11am-6pm at Mission Plaza Park, in front of Holy Cross Church,

Summer Berry Festival
These succulent, sweet and juicy treats flood the Aptos farmers market at Cabrillo College for one day. Saturday, June 28, 6500 Soquel Dr., Aptos. 831.728.5060. No charge for admission.

Woodies on the Wharf
A part of surfing history will be on display as over 200 woodies roll up to the Santa Cruz Wharf. Saturday, June 28, free admission, for more info.

Bikes on the Bay
Stylish cruisers, zippy scooters and sporty motorbikes will all "roar" into Soquel for the third year in a row. Sunday, June 29, Main St., Soquel, www.bikeson

Thursday Nights Out Downtown
Dancing on pavement is more fun than it sounds, and with the Downtown Association's "Music in the Parking Lot" free concert series, it's now easier than ever. Every Thursday in July, 5-8pm, parking lot at Lincoln and Cedar streets; or 831.429.8433.

Fine Arts Festival
Bargetto Winery throws open its doors and offers up wine tasting and art viewing for a reasonable price. Saturday-Sunday, July 12-13, 10am-5pm. 3535 N. Main St., Soquel. $10 wine tasting.

Redwood Dulcimer Festival
Relax in the forest and get acquainted with the strangely shaped dulcimer, an instrument that looks like a fiddle was stretched in a vigorous game of tug-of-war. Saturday, July 26, 60 Verde Drive, Boony Doon; 831.429.1691.

Salsa Festival
Try to make it through the day without burning your tongue at this all-day salsa cook-off. Saturday, July 26, Aptos Farmer's Market, 6500 Soquel Drive. 9am till the salsa runs out.

Monterey Bay Strawberry Festival
Santa Cruz County farms feed the nation's appetite for these delicious little red fruits. Here's a chance to see what all the fuss is about. Friday-Sunday, Aug. 1-3, Ramsay Park, Watsonville. More info at

Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music
Musical director and conductor Marin Alsop has yet again rounded up an impressive list of concerts for this year's festival of cutting-edge classical music, including five world premieres and three U.S. premieres. Aug.1-10, Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, tickets range in price; visit or call 831.420.5260 for details and tickets.

Cabrillo Music, Art, Food and Wine Festival
This "festival within a festival" is part of the Cabrillo Musicfest and includes nonstop ethnic music and dance. Saturday-Sunday, Aug. 2-3, 11am-8pm, Church Street outside the Civic Auditorium, Santa Cruz. Free admission.

Scotts Valley Art and Wine Festival
Local artists, brewers and winemakers show off all the new creations they've been slaving over this year. Saturday-Sunday, Aug. 9-10, 10am-6pm, 361 Kings Village Road, Scotts Valley.

Musical Saw Festival
Accordions, banjos, cellos and mandolins will join Santa Cruz's favorite tool-turned-instrument for a jolly day full of old-fashioned music-making. Sunday, Aug. 10, 10am-6pm, Roaring Camp Railroad, Graham Hill Road, Felton. 831.335.4484.

Polynesian Festival and Aloha Outrigger Races
Absorb the culture of the islands, including food, drink and dance, after watching some exhilarating outrigger-canoe races. Sunday, Aug. 17, Santa Cruz Wharf, free admission.

Begonia Festival
This annual celebration isn't just about the bright, spunky flowers brought to Capitola in the 1930s, it's also about getting the community together to bid farewell to the official summer tourist season and hello to our summer. Friday-Sunday, Aug. 29-Sept. 1, various locations and times. See

Greek Festival
The Greek Orthodox Christians know how to get a dance line started, and their food is superb. Friday-Sunday, Sept, 5-7, Church and Cedar streets, Santa Cruz.

Capitola Art and Wine Festival
The 1970s rock sensation the Eagles are best enjoyed under the influence of a hefty dose of alcohol. Local band the Desperados provide the Eagles covers; 16 different wineries provide the buzz. Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 6-7, 10am-6pm, Capitola. Free admission.

Santa Cruz County Fair
Raising the fattest pig and baking the tastiest apple pie are still two big-time honors around these parts. Sept. 9-14, Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds off Highway 152 in Watsonville. More info at

Ring of Fire

The summer music season in Santa Cruz heats up

Compiled by Garrett Wheeler

The Romantics
June 20 at Beach Boardwalk; free

Man/Miracle, Finn Riggins
June 20 at the Crepe Place; call for price

Earth /Jesse Sykes/Barn Owl/Infantree
June 21 at Brookdale Lodge; $12.50 adv/$15 door

Brandi Carlile
June 23 at Rio Theatre; $18

Indigo Girls
June 25 at Catalyst; $32 adv/$36 door

The Waifs
June 26 at Rio Theatre; $23

Herman's Hermits
June 27 at Beach Boardwalk; free

Todd Snider
June 28 at Catalyst; $20 adv/$25 door

July 2 at Mountain Winery; $45-$65

Rev. Horton Heat
July 3 at Catalyst; $22 adv/$26 door

Rare Earth
July 4 at Beach Boardwalk; free

Mike Ness
July 6 at Catalyst; $28

Red Elvises
July 6 at Moe's Alley; $12 adv/$15 door

Robben Ford
July 7 at Kuumbwa; $22 adv/$25 door

July 7-8 at Mountain Winery; $55-$98

Bob Weir and Ratdog With Gov't Mule
July 9-10 at Mountain Winery; $45-$65

Papa Mali
July 10 at Moe's Alley; $10 adv/$12 door

Eddie Money
July 11 at Beach Boardwalk; free

Santa Cruz Summer Dayz With Israel Vibration
July 13 at Catalyst; $28 adv/$32 door

Aimee Mann
July 14 at Mountain Winery; $30-$50

Lynyrd Skynyrd
July 16 at Mountain Winery; $55-$98

Jefferson Starship
July 18 at Brookdale Lodge

Sha Na Na
July 18 at Beach Boardwalk; free

Matt the Electrician
July 19 at Crepe Place

Groundation and Culture
July 20 at Catalyst; $14 adv/$18 door

Yosvany Terry With Ye-dé-gbe and Afro-Caribbean Legacy
July 21 at Kuumbwa; $22/adv, $25/door

Los Lonely Boys and Los Lobos
July 22 at Mountain Winery; $50-$75

Robert Walter Trio
July 24 at Kuumbwa; $20 adv/$23 door

Blue Oyster Cult
July 25 at Beach Boardwalk; free

July 26 at Catalyst; $19 adv/$23 door

Steely Dan
July 28 at Mountain Winery; $65-$200

George Thoroughgood and the Destroyers
July 29 at Mountain Winery; $50-$75

John Waite
Aug. 1 at Beach Boardwalk; free

Michael Dougherty
Aug. 4 at Kuumbwa; $23

Big Sam's Funky Nation
Aug. 5 at Moe's Alley; $10 adv/$12 door

Aug. 6 at Mountain Winery; $45-$75

Larry Carlton
Aug. 6 at Kuumbwa; $28 adv/$31 door

Yellowjackets With Mike Stern
Aug. 11 at Kuumbwa; $27 adv/$30 door

Human League/Belinda Carlisle/ABC/Dead or Alive
Aug. 11 at Mountain Winery; $50-$85

Byron Space Circus
Aug. 13 at Crepe Place; call for price

Peter Frampton
Aug. 15 at Mountain Winery; $45-$65

Papa Doo Run Run
Aug. 15 at Beach Boardwalk; free

Aug. 15 at Moe's Alley; $15

Weird Al Yankovic
Aug. 16 at Golden State Theatre

Habib Kote
Aug. 19 at the Rio Theatre

Nellie McKay
Aug. 20 at Kuumbwa; $25 adv/$28 door

Gin Blossoms
Aug. 22 at Beach Boardwalk; free

GZA (Wu-Tang)
Aug. 22 at Moe's Alley; $25

John Pizzarelli Quartet
Aug. 25 at Kuumbwa; $27 adv/$30 door

Lucinda Williams
Aug. 27 at Mountain Winery; $45-$50.

The Tubes
Aug. 29 at Beach Boardwalk; free

Willie Nelson
Sept. 4 at Mountain Winery; $55-$93

Happy Camping

A baker's dozen of premium music festivals no more than two tanks of gas away

by Garrett Wheeler

The late 1960s was the golden era of music festivals. Woodstock, Monterey Pop, Altamont--these legendary concerts are permanently etched in the history books of pop culture. Now, 40 years later, a renewed interest in music festivals has given rise to a multitude of outdoor events ranging from mainstream to mildly counterculture to downright bizarre. So round up the camping gear, bring plenty of sunscreen,and get ready for the 2008 California festival season--because even though you won't see Jimi turn his guitar into flames, you may just witness a magic moment of your own.

July 3-6
High Sierra Music Festival
Plumas-Sierra Fairgrounds in Quincy, Calif.
This one's a no-brainer. The High Sierra Music Fest has been running strong for 18 years, drawing the biggest names in newgrass, bluegrass and pretty much anything associated with the neohippie jam-band movement. This year's show is no different; headliners include Bob Weir and Ratdog, Gov't Mule, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Built to Spill and Robben Ford.

July 17-20
California WorldFest
Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley
It's a six-hour drive east, but if you can make it to Grass Valley for the California WorldFest, you'll be duly rewarded. The show features eight stages of music and dance from around the globe, plus workshops, international food and a renowned children's program. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Emeline Michel, Wailin' Jennys and the Waifs top the bill.

Aug. 1-3
Reggae Rising Music Festival
Dimmick Ranch in Piercy, Calif.
Since the wildly popular Reggae on the River bit the dust in 2006, the Reggae Rising Festival has picked up the slack, revitalizing the event by signing some of the biggest names in the industry. For reggae fans, this is a pilgrimage to Mecca: Sizzla, Sly and Robbie, Don Carlos, Collie Buddz, Gentleman, Junior Reid and Julian Marley are all on board.

Aug. 15-17
Jammin' Tree Didgeridoo Music Festival
North Fork Community Center and Campground, North Fork, Calif.
OK, so this show might be a tad niche-specific, but who knew that California was home to the Didgeridoo Music Festival? Formerly held in Joshua Tree, the three-day gathering features performances, jam sessions (don't leave the didge at home), drum circles (or the drum), lessons, workshops and instrument vendors. Now blow, people!

Aug. 22-24
Outside Lands Music Festival
Golden Gate Park in San Francisco
By far the biggest and baddest festival to go down in the greater Bay Area this summer, the Outside Lands Music Fest pushes the boundaries of top-level entertainment, hauling in A-listers like Radiohead, Tom Petty and Jack Johnson. The supporting acts ain't too shabby either: Beck, Wilco, Manu Cao, Ben Harper, Widespread Panic, Primus, Steve Winwood, Steel Pulse and Rodgrigo Y Gabriela all perform. Can you say Bay Area Bonnaroo?

Aug. 23-24
Bodega Seafood Art & Wine Festival
16855 Bodega Hwy, in Bodega
Prefer wine and cheese to whiskey and oatmeal? The mature festivalgoer (is that a paradox?) will enjoy a weekend in Bodega Bay, sampling local wines, microbrews and fresh seafood while taking in the sounds of Tommy Castro, Mitch Woods and the Rocket 88's, the Zydeco Flames and others.

Aug. 30-31
Blues by the Bay
Halvorsen Park in Eureka
John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers headline the 12th rendition of this NorCal blues fest, which goes down in the picturesque setting of Halvorsen Park. Get an earful of blues music as you check out art vendors and sample a variety of local microbrews. Also performing is Joe Louis Walker, Roy Rogers and the Delta Rhythm Kings, Shane Dwight and more.

Sept. 12-14
West Beach Music & Arts Festival
West Beach in Santa Barbara
Yeah, it's in September, but have you seen Santa Barbara in September? Straight-up fun in the sun, baby. Enjoy the warm autumn weather (no June gloom here) literally on the beach with the likes of Ziggy Marley, Jason Mraz, Jackie Greene and Natasha Bedingfield, among others.

Sept. 19-21
51st Monterey Jazz Festival
Monterey Fairgrounds in Monterey
In the world of jazz, few events compare to the Monterey Jazz Festival. The event is the longest consecutively running jazz festival on earth, and has hosted all but a few of the brightest stars in the genre. Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie all headlined--and that was only the first year! This year's installment features the inimitable Herbie Hancock, as well as a long list of jazz greats including Cassandra Wilson, Maceo Parker and Derek Trucks.

Sept. 19-21
Bluegrassin' in the Foothills
Amador County Fairgrounds, Plymouth, Calif.
Hardcore 'grass fans will have a foot-stompin' good time at Plymouth's bluegrass festival, a three-day event held in the heart of gold (and wine) country. Headliners include Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper, the Gibson Brothers, the Bluegrass Brothers and New Found Road. Saddle up, and don't forget your goldpan!

Sept. 20-21
Treasure Island Music Festival
Treasure Island in San Francisco
No venue can come close to this--a concert held on a giant rock in the middle of the San Francisco Bay? Sweet! Besides the novelty of the location, you'll uncover plenty of musical treasures including Justice, TV on the Radio, Aesop Rock, the Kills, Tegan and Sara and the Raconteurs.

Sept. 20
Far West Fest
Love Field in Point Reyes
The fourth annual Far West Fest is a family-friendly event, with a designated "Kids' Zone" for the young 'uns and a diverse band lineup that'll satisfy any music lover. Santa Cruz's own Brazilian-fusion group SambaDá lands second on the bill behind alt-rocker Camper Van Beethoven. Proceeds benefit Marin County's community radio station, KWMR.

Sept. 26-28
San Francisco Blues Festival
Fort Mason in San Francisco
Downbeat Magazine called it "the oldest ongoing blues festival in the world ... set in one of the most beautiful places on the continent," and if that doesn't convince you, maybe this year's headliners (Elvin Bishop and Johnny Winter) will. The bill also includes acoustic blues band Hot Tuna, Elmore James Jr. and Buckwheat Zydeco.

The Season of The Muse

'Superstar' shines and SSC goes with a classic on the summer stage

by Matthew Craggs

As the curtains rise on the summer theater season, the fourth wall lowers and allows the audience to safely peer into worlds filled with murder, sex, scandals and slapstick comedy. Consider the summer theater season to be an intellectual tabloid that you don't have to rush through in the 15 Items or Less line.

The biggest ado in the summer season is Shakespeare Santa Cruz. Following the departure last year of Paul Whitworth, Marco Barricelli opens his term as artistic director by playing it safe with Romeo and Juliet. Barricelli's comedy selection, All's Well That Ends Well, may not be the best-known Shakespearean comedy, but it's a solid outing that comments on honor, loyalty, love and war. Acclaimed playwright and author Itamar Moses' Bach at Leipzig revolves around a group of musicians who have gathered at the Thomaskirche in 18th-century Germany to interview for the position of organ master. Moses takes a farcical look at the lives of artists and intellectuals pre-determined to come up short.

It's with Lanford Wilson's Burn This that Barricelli takes his biggest risk. Fans of RENT will find similarities in the two scripts, and the mature themes may bog down the summer festival feel--a possible repeat of last year's Endgame, which seemed a better fit for an October night than a summer matinee. Shakespeare Santa Cruz runs at the UCSC Main Stage and Festival Glen from July 19 through Aug. 31.

Shakespeare Santa Cruz highlights some of the best talent on the Pacific Coast, many of which probably got their start in acting classes and theater workshops. Locally, WEST Performing Arts provides fledgling actors the opportunity to flex their acting muscles. Housed at the Broadway Playhouse, WEST affords kids and teens the chance to enroll in a class that prepares them for a final production at the end of the course. June through August will see 10 productions of children's fairy tales, classics and original tales.

To relieve the summer heat, Cabrillo Stage shines its lights on two cool musicals. Running June 27 through July 27, Forever Plaid features hits of the 1950s as a doomed band receives one more chance at the concert of a lifetime. From a musical with soul to a musical that can save your soul, Cabrillo Stage takes us from Plaid to the Broadway hit Jesus Christ Superstar. The Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber collaboration visits the Cabrillo Theatre July 11 through Aug. 17.

While Jesus Christ may be tried and true, sometimes you need something fresh--so new, in fact, that it was created on the spot. During weekend evenings from July 5 through Aug. 3, the Improvfest will rule supreme. Veteran Santa Cruz improv troupes such as Scriptease, UmGeeUm and Loose Cannon share the Actors' Theatre stage with fellow improvisers. Transitioning from a regular season to a production rental space, Actors' Theatre has pledged to continue production of its regular festivals and playwriting contests. The winning plays of the latest Full-Length Playwriting Contest will debut in early September. Flight Risk occupies the first weekend, followed by In the Middle of Nowhere the next.

On your return from Nowhere, if you find yourself realizing there's no place like home, you can always take the Yellow Brick Road--or in this case Highway 1 south--to Pacific Repertory Theatre's production of The Wizard of Oz. Performed in Carmel's Outdoor Forest Theatre between Aug. 21 and Sept. 28, Oz's fantastical world is a natural fit to the surrounding pines--something thespians in Santa Cruz know a little something about. But just in case you didn't get enough Shakespeare at UCSC, Pac Rep also offers a performance of Troilus and Cressida from Sept. 5 through Oct. 19 that'll finally satiate your Bard-inspired theatrical lust that opened the summer.

Playing Around

Summer fun for the popsicle-eating set

by Will Mosher

Great Train Robberies
Tell your kids you're going on a regular train ride when you go on this simulated train robbery and they'll either cherish the memory forever or develop train phobia. Weekend of June 28-29, 11am-12:30pm and 2-3:30pm. Roaring Camp Railroad. 831.335.4484.

Snakes at the Natural History Museum
Snakes continue to be awesome despite the bad reputation they've gotten from famous snake-haters like Saint Patrick and Indiana Jones. Meet live snakes and find out why they don't live up to their negative image on June 28, 11am-2pm at the Santa Cruz Natural History Museum. 831.420.6115.

Fourth of July Celebration at Roaring Camp
Sack races, a balloon toss and hula hoop contests help the wee ones celebrate the end of taxation without representation in proper style. July 4-6 at Roaring Camp, Felton. 831.335.4484.

Beautiful Bats
The California Bat Conservation Fund wants you to know that bats aren't rabid monsters that want to lay eggs in your hair, but are really there to protect you from your true enemy: bugs. Learn why on July 5, 11am-2pm at the Santa Cruz Natural History Museum. 831.420.6115.

Homerun Derby
Kids and parents get to bond by smacking some balls with a bat. It's free, and people can win some awesome prizes. Saturday, July 12, at 10am at DeLaveaga Park Softball Fields.

Movies in the Park
Attention: there are free movies playing in the Harvey West Park Stadium. Shrek the Third screens July 12, The Goonies July 19 and Curious George July 26. All start at 8:45pm.

The Rainforest Sings
Actually, the musical team ZunZun will be doing the singing, not the rainforest. They'll take the kids on a bilingual journey through the jungle. Saturday, July 12, 11:30am and 1pm at the Santa Cruz Natural History Museum. 831.420.6115.

Creepy Crawlies
Take a miniature safari through the wilds of the insect world with the help of a professional curator. Phobic children will be protected from insects. July 19, drop-in 11:30am-1pm at the Santa Cruz Natural History Museum. 831.420.6115.

Thomas the Tank Engine
The big-faced man himself takes the kiddies on a ride through the Big Trees. July 25-25 and August 1-3, Roaring Camp, Felton. 831.335.4484.

Chinese Acrobats at the Boardwalk
This year's special guests at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk are Chinese acrobats, and they're performing all the circus standbys: spinning plates, bicycle riding and jumping through hoops. July 13-Aug. 21. Sundays at noon and 6pm and Mondays-Thursdays at noon and 3pm. 831.423.5590.

Summer Gathering of Mountain Men
Lumberjacks and trappers of the 1830s set up camp for all to see. Aug. 9-10, Roaring Camp in Felton. 831.335.4484.

Great Train Robberies
The bad guys are back (see June). Aug. 30-31, Roaring Camp in Felton. 831.335.4484.

Santa Cruz Kite Festival
Someone has decided that kites merit their own festival, which would be boring if they weren't having kite fights and choreographed team flying. Come see it on Sept. 13 in front of the Beach Boardwalk.

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